In 2012, as part of the Jubilee celebrations, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, attended her first official function with the Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall. The location? Fortnum and Mason, one of the oldest and most distinguished department stores in London. Since 1707, it has stood at 181 Piccadilly, near Regent’s Street and Piccadilly Circus – a landmark in the centre of the city, and a mecca for tourists and foodies alike.
The third floor is the terrain of the gentleman about town, with a shoe shine service, leather goods and other accessories, although during the festive period, it transforms into one of the most magical Christmas departments in any store in London. Forget Harrod’s – if you only visit one store in London during Christmas, it should be Fortnum’s. They may not have the sheer floorspace of other, more famous department stores, but they certainly have an eye for collecting together the best range of high quality ornaments. And, you can always count on some British-themed items, too – last year’s included corgis, crowns and red buses!
• Fortnum & Mason invented the Scotch egg in 1738, a staple of British buffets and picnics, which consists of a boiled egg, coated in sausagemeat, and deep fried with a breadcrumb coating. They are truly delicious!
• 1886 saw the company stock baked beans from Heinz, and it became the first store in Britain to do so. Since then Heinz baked beans have become another staple of the British diet, most often served on toast!
• The most expensive hamper online is the St James Hamper, which is priced at £1,000, although seasonal hampers can cost as much as £5,000, and contain everything from ham to chocolates and champagne.
• In 2013, Fortnum’s opened a new shop in the UK for the first time since 1707, at St Pancras International Station. Since then, the company has opened a new store in Dubai!
• The 1922 Everest expedition was accompanied by Fortnum’s hampers containing 60 tins of quail in foie gras and four dozen bottles of champagne, whilst the 1924 expedition included such luxuries from the store as clockwork lanterns, dessert serving sets and mattresses!
• Fortnum’s reputation was built on the sale of tea – because of high taxes, lots of tea during the 17th century entered the country illegally, and much of it was bulked out with anything from other dried plants, to lead and flour. However, Fortnum’s reputation for quality made it a trustworthy source for tea leaves – amongst other provisions!
• If you want marmalade, Fortnum’s is the place to go – it has the highest number of marmalades for sale in Britain, and also co-hosts the annual Dalemain Marmalade Awards, and sponsors the Artisan category!